Illinois More than Doubles Cigarette Tax

May 30, 2012

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Illinois lawmakers have enacted a $1-a-pack increase in cigarette taxes — more than doubling the current 98-cent tax. The life-saving measure will reduce smoking and raise revenues to help fund the state’s health care program for the poor.

Gov. Pat Quinn has championed this initiative, proposing the cigarette tax increase to keep kids from smoking and help save the Medicaid health insurance program.

The state is also doubling the tax on other tobacco products.  Together, these actions will prevent kids from smoking and using other tobacco products, motivate smokers to quit, and save lives and health care dollars. 

The evidence is clear that increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids.  Illinois can expect the $1 cigarette tax increase to prevent 72,700 Illinois kids from becoming smokers; spur 53,400 current adult smokers to quit; save more than 38,600 Illinois residents from smoking-caused deaths; and save $2.4 billion in future health care costs.  It will also raise about $350 million a year in new revenue.

With Governor Quinn’s leadership, health advocates were able to overcome lobbying by the tobacco industry and anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist, best known for the anti-tax pledge that he urges political candidates to sign.  Norquist has long been allied with tobacco companies, who frequently use such political front groups to further their own interests.

Illinois’s leadership in enacting this year’s first state cigarette tax hike is a model that other states should follow to reduce tobacco use and save lives.